Notes on the Media

New York Times restructures

The New York Times newspaper announced it was anticipating layoffs in its white-collar staff, the newspaper reported Jan. 12. The New York Times Corporation had announced the previous day a pretax charge of $30 million ``for severance and related costs resulting from anticipated white-collar staff reductions'' on estimated 1993 profits of from $59 million to $67 million.

In a memorandum to the staff, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said that while the paper's finances had stabilized, ``we still find ourselves facing serious difficulties.'' He cited a falloff in advertizing lineage of more than one-third since the stock-market crash of 1987. The Times will seek job reductions on a volunteer basis at first. But Mr. Sulzberger did not rule out the possibility that some employees ``will have to leave with severance packages.''

French call to protect their media

French Communication Minister Alain Carignon said Jan. 17 that Europe must encourage creation of powerful, diversified media groups to block United States companies from gaining control over the European audiovisual sector.

In an editorial in the daily newspaper Le Monde, Mr. Carignon wrote: ``The Americans will continue massive buying of distribution rights for all of Europe and gradually bar any European firm from developing competitive stations.''

He urged the 12 European Union member states to encourage the building of ``powerful multimedia groups'' like the alliances being built in Germany. He cited ties linking German telecommunications monopoly Deutsche Telekom, state broadcaster ZDF, publishing giant Bertelsmann, and media mogul Leo Kirch.

The week before, Carignon had announced that he was inviting representatives of France's audiovisual industry to a meeting to map out a European strategy following a December world trade agreement that excluded the audiovisual industry.

Bidding heats up for Polish TV

A contest to set up Poland's first nationwide private television channel entered its final stages Jan. 17 as the last of the foreign and domestic rivals presented their plans at public hearings.

The independent Nationwide Radio and Television Council, which will decide which of the 10 groups wins the single broadcasting license up for grabs, was examining the last four bids after hearing six challengers over the weekend.

The rivals include foreign media groups and investors wanting a stake in Poland's first nationwide commercial channel. Foreign stakes are limited, but bidders include German media group Bertelsmann AG, Luxembourg media group Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Telediffusion with Reuters Holdings Plc, Time-Warner Inc., and France's Canal Plus.

``Above all, we are interested in whether the proposal of each group guarantees independence from the foreign capital invested in it,'' said Maciej Ilowiecki, a member of the nine-person council. Poland already has two nationwide channels, but both are state-owned. The country offers a potential audience of more than 38 million for the successful bidder and advertisers. The rivals plan channels offering varying mixtures of films, news, current affairs, entertainment, and sports.

Almost half the programs must be Polish-made and the foreign share in each bid is limited to 33 percent, resulting in foreign bidders having joined forces with domestic groups.

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